A simple method to radicalize your Christianity

posted on 2012-11-17

Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.

– Mark 9:35

Being the servant of all is a hard task that we often forget to do.  We need to remind ourselves constantly that we are here to serve everyone.  One easy way to do this is to call everyone else “Sir” or “Ma’am.”  This language serves as a reminder to ourselves, and at the same time uplifts the person we’re talking to.

I discovered this trick when I was an officer in the Navy.  All the enlisted sailors had to call me “Sir,” and that frankly made me feel good about myself.  It made me feel important.  I had twenty people I was in charge of, and their sole purpose in life was to do what I told them to do.  To drive this point home, all midshipmen have to memorize this quote in their first year at the Naval Academy:

Sir, sir is subservient word surviving from the surly days of old Serbia, when certain serfs, too ignorant to remember their lord’s names, yet too servile to blaspheme them, circumvented the situation by surrogating the subservient word sir, by which I now belatedly address a certain senior cirroped who correctly surmised that I was syrupy enough to say sir after every word I said, sir.

But one of the reasons I left the Navy was the realization that the military’s power structure looked nothing like what Jesus wanted from his followers.  Jesus came to invert this power structure.  He came to make the first last and the last first—so we need to do that in our own lives.  As an officer, I should have been calling my sailors sir, because it should have been me serving them.  That’s the example that Jesus gave.

So now when I’m walking down the street and see a homeless women, I greet her with “Good morning, ma’am!”  God put me on that path in order to be a Jesus for her—to be her servant.  I need to remind myself that I was made just for this moment: to accept this woman’s sins as my own and serve her as Christ would.  And she needs someone to treat her with the dignity of a human created in God’s image.  Being called ma’am may just be the only dignity she receives for the rest of her life.

Christ washing his disciples’ feet